Home

This California in December thing seems to be a trend now that NPS works for a silicon valley company. What that means is a week-long delay in the start of our annual no fly nöel thing.

So how did 2018 stack up? Well the tripometer was up year over year after many years. And most of the travel was international. This year we visited:

  • London (twice)
  • Inverness
  • Stuttgart
  • Neuremberg
  • Tokyo
  • Kyoto
  • Oslo
  • Sardegna
  • Malta

Lots of time outside the confines of the broken United States and its Orange Caligula of a “President.”

Here’s the graph.

The annual tripometer. Trips are up for NPS.

Because of all of the international travel, we had some interesting impact on loyalty programs. It’s not even clear we’ll make inner circle this year at Kimpton (horrors)!

Other than the “not really Virgin America” we have no loyalty anymore for any airlines. Treat them all the same and let the chips fall where they will. Use money to “upgrade” by starting out upgraded. My my how things have changed.

A direct comparison of international business class shows United has the best service. Here are two examples.
Delta
United

Anyway, time to stay home by the fire for a while.

 

NPS has heard plenty of good things about Grand Hyatt Tokyo, but until just recently everything was just rumor and innuendo. The good news is that the rumors were all true. Grand Hyatt Tokyo is a great base of operations for exploring Tokyo.

NPS lives in Virginia. Getting to Tokyo (and to the Grand Hyatt) from Virginia takes about 18 hours. Lets review. First there is the car ride to IAD, then there is the 12.5 hour United flight (Polaris of course), then there is the N’ex from Narita into town.

One or two pieces of advice. We were assigned a deluxe king room 648. The club level is worth paying for (we found this out once we were comp’ed in by a friend). Pay more and get a corner room. Or heck, blow your wad and get a suite. Since this was an NPS first visit to Japan, we relied on friends to make our reservation when we probably should have checked things out more carefully and upped a level or two.

That said, 648 is “pretty not bad.” The sixth floor is a particularly great floor to be on since it also is the restaurant and shopping center (way upscale) connection floor.

Entrance hall 648

Every room needs green tea and a tea set because Japan

The bed does take up pretty much the whole room 648

Fortunately, the shower is WAY not plastic with a built in tub, multiple nozzles, and a very cool slit drain. This shower meets and exceeds NPS requirements on all fronts.

Of course the toilet tech involves many buttons, automatic lid lifting, and other mysteries.

Toilet with an advanced degree

The best part of the Grand Hyatt is the super-professional staff whose attention to detail and courtesy can’t be matched.

Some Tokto recommendations. Get ramen at Afuri (there are many) and also try some tsukemen at Fuunji. The sushi at the restaurant in the Grand Hyatt is quite delicious.

 

Watch out for Pat. He will stretch your Saturday night until 6:30am Sunday. A couple of great bars include Wodka Tonic and Bar Arashi. Vynil bars are over-rated. Watch live music (but use ear plugs if you are over 50).

 

 

 

Homemade gin infusion

See some live Rock and Roll.  Read about The Dead Bambies and Jungles!!! here.

Records and booze

Getting Later

Visit mori tower

Visit the shrines

Meiji Jingu and Senso-ji

Import the Liberal to the Local

Five showerheads for the Grand Hyatt Tokyo.

New York is a fantastic city to visit for any reason or no reason (and this time we had a reason as you will see). The Eventi, because of its location, makes a good base of operations. Thing is, after having been to the Eventi many times, the place still feels corporate and soulless and the property seems to have no recollection or any memory at all of NPS stays. Not sure why.

This time, NPS was doing the complicated free night reward thing. The Kimpton twitter fairies did a formidable job shaking loose a free night at the Eventi and then did what they could to combine the reservations. Which meant we were able to stay in the same room for our two days running. That was good. The no maid service until explicitly requested in the afternoon? Not so good. The Eventi front desk even turned off the keys requiring a trip downstairs. Service much? Nope. Strike one.

We were assigned 2217. This “city view” room is on the south side of the building and has views down 6th Avenue. You can see both the Empire State Building and Freedom tower from the room. The view is very nice.

The Empire State Building in purple for NYU Graduation

We arrived late at night after one of the worst United Express flights ever. It never ceases to amaze NPS just how bad United can be when it is bad. Commute air should not be flying props in 2017. Sorry. Just no reason.

Having an amenity in the room with a personalized note and two tiny bottles of sparkling water was nice. Later on night two we had to order up our own water for $26. Inner circle people don’t like that nonsense. Strike two.

Greetings

Dual view, South and East.

New York is always pretty at night.

2217 is all one bed dominated room

The bathroom is nice but not too fancy as far as the Eventi goes. The room category NPS usually stays in has better showers.

Shower 2217

Up early, we headed to Yankee Stadium for NYU graduation.

Cum laude!

NY was exceptionally hot as was the stadium!

After our sweltering morning in the direct sun, we changed scenery by chartering a 41 foot sailboat and sailing in NY harbor and up the Hudson. Awesome!

No fun was had (at all)

Dinner at Il Buco was fantastic as always.

Day two featured a great brunch at Cafe Orlin.

The plan was to switch hotels after brunch and before the second graduation ceremony. Sadly, the drunk driving incident at Times Square had traffic snarled by the Muse. We hopped the subway uptown.

NPS is very sorry to say that the staff at the Eventi was entirely unhelpful in arranging to get our bags taken to the Muse (during a 7 hour window). We were forced to come back at 9:25pm and pick them up after dinner. Good hotels do better than this. Minus twenty Eventi staff! Strike three. And you’re out at home plate.

We did manage to find one very helpful bellman who stashed our champagne in the employee fridge. Now that was creative and a huge help.

Radio City

So you see, the Eventi has this corporate bureaucratic approach that just grates and causes a constant barrage of swings and misses. The staff seems friendly enough, but impersonal. The lack of a creative, helpful solution to a pretty easy bag moving problem is telling.

The Eventi’s stylish open restaurant and lobby as well as its prime location almost makes up for the IHG (not very Kimpton) feel, but not quite. Three showerheads and a mandatory training program for the Eventi.

Delta Business Class

May 4, 2017

Is Tumi better than Saks Fifth Avenue? That’s the main branding difference between United’s Polaris thing and Delta’s Business Class. All told, NPS still prefers the Virgin Atlantic business class to Europe experience. All of this is complicated by the fact that Virgin America was bought by Alaska in 2016. Every one of the alliances is re-aligning. No real loyalty left out there in airplane-land for NPS.

Delta and Tumi are a thing

The Delta pods are not quite as advanced as the United pods are these days, but they do lay flat. The tiny just out of reach touch screens need some ergonomic work (or a remote control).

Delta business class pod

The Virgin arrivals lounge at Heathrow (a Delta partner) is worth a visit. Hot showers and food that is slightly better than what you get on the airplane.

So delta will do. Pods make all the difference.

The plan was a bit intense and involved a taxi, a train, a plane, a car, and just over 25 hours. We did this to see the New Pornographers.

According to twitter, the day went something like this:

So all in all a long but great day ending at the Philadelphia Monaco in room 616. A room that we like so much we’ll severely overpay just to stay in it!

616 looks different by night and day.

616 by day

616 by night

A bed felt great after 5,000 miles

High style in the bathroom

But we’re here for the shower!

One of the top NPS approved showers on the entire planet

Plus look at this outstanding welcome. Personal note from Abby and a tiki-style beverage.

616 view by night

616 view by day

Anyway, the Monaco room 616 is fantastic. Great style, the best shower within hundreds of miles, a comfortable bed, and management that runs a pretty tight ship. Just avoid the NFL draft weekend crowds if you can! LOL.

Dinner before the show at Sazon was interesting and delicious. Make sure to BYOB or cider or case of cider (as the case may be).

Of course, NPS can’t go to Philly anymore without visiting Paul MacDonald and company at Friday Saturday Sunday. We enjoyed a Cloudbreak or two and a newly minted by as yet unnamed cocktail that we’re calling the Ombre Snowcap for the time being. Back bar Fernet was had by some and ignored by the uninitiated.

Friday Saturday Sunday may be the best bar in Philadelphia

The Cloudbreak

The Cloudbreak is such a good cocktail that it was instantly copied in Virginia at the NPS home bar. Paul makes the best version of course. We’re mere dabblers at NPS.

Paul intends to switch out the Cloudbreak for a summer drink that we call the Ombre Snowcap.

Ombre Snowcap (well we call it that for now anyway)

Ombre Snowcap
1.5 oz Fines Herbs infused Vodka (parsely, chive, tarragon 24-hours)
.75 oz lemon juice
.5 oz simple syrup
.5 oz meletti amaro
1/16 oz olive oil
.75 egg white
Dry shake, shake, strain into rocks glass (no ice). Season foam with pechauds and soda and drop on top

This cocktail does a magical separation thing that is hard to describe. Paul’s work is truly amazing. Try this at home if you dare!

Home to the Monaco 25 hours in! Honestly the Friday Saturday Sunday visit was more fun that the masterly but non-charismatic show put on by the New Pornographers. Get some charisma you guys!

Back to our story. If you’re out until 2am after 25 hours, you sleep through breakfast. Which is why they make room service to bring you espressoand a muffin for $45. LOL.

Around noon it is off to Nom Nom Ramen for a leisurely lunch.

Nom Nom

Followed by a coffee at Elixer, and a cocktail at Milkboy.

A steamy day on the sunny side of the sidewalk in Philadelphia

It was a quick hit to Philly, but a great time. Five showerheads for the Hotel Monaco in Philadelphia.

You know how we feel about United airlines here on this blog. They squeezed every single iota of loyalty out of us during the ill-fated Smisek years. Our 1.6 MILLION miles meant nothing to United. So we stopped flying United three years ago.

Is it time to forget and forgive? Well, not exactly. But sometimes we just fly whatever airline will get us where we need to be when we need to be there.

The world colluded to put us in United Polaris across the pond to Frankfurt.

The United pods on a 777-200 are nice. They are easier to manage than the Virgin Atlantic pods and don’t require shenanigans to get into bed mode. In practice, that means with expedited meal service you can get right to pretending to sleep.

Saks Fifth Avenue? Ha ha ha. United and dime stores.

Pod view with a large screen entertainment system running linux

Mimosa and propaganda

On this trip the crew was great, the wine was passable, the flight was bumpy and we arrived early. Well, what you gonna do.

Then there was the indignity of the bus at Frankfurt. No no no no.

Anyway, you get what you overpay for on United Polaris!

No Fly Noël 2016: Kinda

December 3, 2016

Regular NPS readers and lurkers know all about “no fly July” and “no fly Noël.” The idea is simple. Stop. Rest. Think. Read. Get out of the hubbub of everyday modern life, sit by the fire, and exist.

This year’s No Fly Noël is much needed as 2016 was about the most stressful year on record for NPS in 17 years. It was a great year in the end, but boy are we glad it is over.

So, how did the year look? Kinda like this (according to the tripometer).

The 2016 NPS tripometer

The 2016 NPS tripometer

Travel according to the new regimen is trending nicely low. The goal for 2016 was 20 trips and we came in 15% high at 23. Well, almost. Looks like we have to throw off the chains of No Fly Noël and hit the road one more time in December to strategize with the corporate overlords. Or maybe that is overlord with the corporate strategists? Something like that anyway. Stay tuned for those data. (And make that 24 trips and a 20% overrun.)

In other news this year, the Elevate Gold status on Virgin America is a good thing. We switched the firehose from United to Virgin America in 2014 and there is no looking back. NPS likes main cabin select. NPS also likes using points to upgrade to Europe. How that will work going forward is a good question!

Fly too much?  Try Virgin America.

Fly too much? Try Virgin America.

Of course since NPS is based at Dulles, there is no avoiding United. Honestly, they did better this year. Flying United was not great, but it did not completely suck. So maybe the Smisek effect is finally washing out.

And then there is Kimpton which remains the NPS go to hotel chain of choice even after the disaster that is the San Francisco Kimpton property crater. Years ago we helped to start the Kimpton Intouch program (which is now the Kimpton Karma program). We do what we can to stay qualified without calling in air support from Mike Defrino. You go Kimpton!

Inner Circle?  Why yes, we'll have some

Inner Circle? Why yes, we’ll have some